Following President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf’s meeting behind closed doors with members of the National Legislature yesterday, Maryland County Representative Dr. Bhofal Chambers termed the visit as “unprepared” and a “Legislative and Executive session that ignores the relevance of plenary.”
“The President was not prepared to address the issues at stake,” said Rep. Chambers, who also sat in the meeting. “The concerns of the Legislature centered on the expenditure of money allotted to the Ebola fight and we’re saying that such meeting must be decided by plenary, the highest decision making body of the Legislature.”
According to Dr. Chambers, the agenda of the meeting was decided by the Executive and not plenary of both Houses, something he said sharply contradicts legislative proceedings.
According to legislative procedure, the President can meet with the Speaker of the House of Representatives & Senate Pro Tempore – as a representation of the Plenary, specifically to discuss the need for a State of Emergency. Other than that, the President is required to address the plenary in full. According to Rep. Chambers, the House Leadership ignored plenary.
According to reports, all legislators were invited to the meeting ever since Friday, September 26, but the session was sparsely attended due to the absence of some legislators who were said to be out of town.
House Speaker J. Alex Tyler believes, however, the President’s meeting with the legislators was mutual. In a post-visit interview, the Speaker confirmed that the President’s visit was a “Legislative Executive session.” He maintained that this came as a result of inquiries from individual members of the Legislature relative to specific issues in the country, but declined to state whether the issues at stake were addressed.
“The President and Legislature discussed issues of national concerns that are cardinal to our survival,” Speaker Tyler said.
According to Presidential Press Secretary Jerolinmek Piah, the discussion centered “on the current Ebola outbreak now ravaging the country.”
However, another member of the Legislature who attended the meeting described it as “an executive agenda imposed on the Legislature.”
According to Piah, “the Liberian leader briefed lawmakers on the overall situation about the Ebola virus disease in the country; a new national strategy presented by the National Task Force on Ebola which had been discussed and endorsed at the weekend; the organizational structure to implement the strategy; partnership support in the fight; resources for the fight; the construction of more facilities to enhance the fight and prevent the further spread of the Ebola virus disease; as well as government’s economic recovery plan during and after the outbreak.
“The President personally lauded the efforts of Montserrado County District No. 13 Representative Saah Joseph who she described as a ‘hero’ in the fight against the Ebola virus disease and asked members of the National Legislature to join her in thanking the lawmaker for his service to humanity.”
President Sirleaf’s visit to the Legislature, Piah continued, “was meant to promote information sharing within government, strengthen coordination and collaboration, enhance transparency in the Ebola fight and bring the leadership up to speed as the government exerts all efforts to eradicate the deadly Ebola virus disease from the country.”
President Johnson Sirleaf was accompanied to the meeting by Finance and Development Planning Minister-designate Amara Konneh, Information Minister Lewis Brown, Youth and Sports Minister Eugene Nagbe and Presidential Press Secretary Jerolinmek Piah, among others.